Steady Population: 5.2 Million Indians Counted

Rob Capriccioso
4/20/11

After a major push to have more American Indians counted in 2010, a final tally has been released by the U.S. Census Bureau: 5,220,579 people reported being a combination of races, one of which included American Indian and/or Alaska Native. Of those, 2,932,248 reported being American Indian and/or Alaska Native alone. On top of that, about a half a million Americans reported being “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander.”

The numbers mean that approximately 1.7 percent of the United States’ population reported being American Indian and/or Alaska Native in 2010, of which 0.95 percent reported being Indian and/or Alaska Native only. Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders represented an additional 0.2 percent of the entire population.

There was an 18 percent growth in the American Indian and Alaska Native alone population between 2000 and 2010, which means that Indians stayed the same in their proportion of the total population in that time period. In 2000, 2.5 million had reported being American Indian and Alaska Native alone.

That fact is disappointing to some Indian analysts who had hoped that the Native population numbers would equate to a larger percentage of the population in 2010. While the growth in overall Native numbers is appreciated, a greater share of the population would have also been desirable. Many tribes and Indian organizations had worked to increase the Native numbers, and the Census Bureau itself had worked to improve outreach to Indians for the 2010 count.

“The Bureau got an early start and partnered with tribes throughout the country to connect with tribal members,” reported Greg Guedel in a Native American Legal Update blog posting last May. “The initial results indicate a significant increase in the response rate for tribal members, which should result in better federal representation for Native communities.

Guedel noted that “the information the Census collects helps to determine the allocation of more than $400 billion dollars of federal funding each year, for projects such as hospitals, schools, emergency services, and transportation.”

“The Bureau partnered with groups such as the National Congress of American Indians and took a government-to-government approach, making formal presentations to all 564 federally recognized Tribes and asking permission to conduct operations on Tribal lands,” wrote Guedel. “A prime example of the improved accounting in Native communities is found with the Tulalip Tribes, whose Census return rate by last month had hit 70 percent — even before Census workers started their direct outreach to individual tribal members. In 2000, the Tulalip final return rate was 54 percent.”

Tribal leaders had made pleas for an accurate 2010 count. “We’re deeply appreciative of the Census Bureau for understanding that Indian country was underrepresented 10 years ago,” Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon said last May. “We do not forget our history, it hasn’t always been the best of relationships ... but there’s a new era here, and we’re looking forward with optimism.”

Of note to Indian country, people reporting more than one race in the 2010 data was found to be one of the fastest growing populations and made up large proportions of the American Indian and Alaska Native population and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population.

“There were more reports of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander in combination with one or more additional races than there were of Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone (0.7 million and 0.5 million, respectively),” according to a Census report released March 24. “Almost as many people indicated American Indian and Alaska Native in combination with one or more additional races as people who indicated American Indian and Alaska Native alone (2.3 million and 2.9 million, respectively). Thus, over half of the Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander population and almost half of the American Indian and Alaska Native population reported more than one race.”

Four groups had the largest multiple-race combinations: White and Black (1.8 million), White and Some Other Race (1.7 million), White and Asian (1.6 million), and White and American Indian and Alaska Native (1.4 million). These four combinations composed nearly three-fourths of the multiple-race population in the 2010 Census, according to the results.

In total, 56 percent of people in the American Indian and Alaska Native alone-or-in-combination category reported one race. Of the 2.3 million who reported American Indian and Alaska Native along with one or more additional races, about 63 percent reported one combination: American Indian and Alaska Native and White. American Indian and Alaska Native and Black (12 percent) as well as American Indian and Alaska Native and White and Black (10 percent) were also common combinations reported among the Native population.

The following data is also highlighted in the report: “Among those who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, the proportion of Hispanics and non-Hispanics who reported more than one race was about the same—unlike any other race group. There were 1.2 million people of Hispanic origin who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native, 43 percent of whom reported multiple races. The majority of Hispanics who reported more than one race within the American Indian and Alaska Native population identified as one of two combinations: American Indian and Alaska Native and White (45 percent) and American Indian and Alaska Native and Some Other Race (21 percent). Similar to Hispanic American Indians and Alaska Natives, 44 percent of non-Hispanics who identified as American Indian and Alaska Native reported more than one race. However, unlike Hispanics, over two-thirds reported one combination: American Indian and Alaska Native and White.”

Complete 2010 Census data is available online at http://www.census.gov/prod/cen2010/briefs/c2010br-02.pdf.

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